Gareth Neame comes from a family of entertainers and entered showbiz practically at birth. While still a baby, he appeared in the classic film by his grandfather, Ronald Neame, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. He later worked at the BBC and founded Carnival Films, which he sold to NBCUniversal in 2008. Soon afterward, he connected with Julian Fellowes about an Edwardian-era drama set in an English country house, a serialized take on the world of Fellowes’ Oscar-winning script for Gosford Park. The result: Downton Abbey, which Neame executive produces. The drama starts its sixth and final season on Jan. 3 on PBS. An edited version of Neame’s talk with B&C’s Luke McCord follows.
Who decided to end the show after six seasons and why?
It was really a mutual decision by the producers and the cast and something we’ve been talking about for a while. How long do we keep the show going? When do we bring it to an end? I think our feeling was that this was the right time to finish it, to quit while we’re still as popular as we are and while people still want more.
What will you miss most about the show?
I’ll just miss it being a part of my daily life. We’ve been in production for six years. I was developing and selling the show for probably a year or two prior to that. So we’re really talking about a better part of a decade it’s been in my life…In terms of the story, I’ll sort of miss finding out what happens to all those characters in the future. I’ve always been quite interested in what happens to Downton Abbey once Baby George owns and runs the estate in 30 or 40 years’ time.
Is there anything you can reveal about the upcoming final season for fans?
Well, no, not really. British audiences have seen most of the final season now and the feedback from a lot of people seems to be it was the best season yet. I definitely think it’s highly rewarding for fans of the show as they start to see what is going to happen, what the final outcome is for their favorite characters.
Having a family with a long history in entertainment, was working as a producer always the plan?
For sure, my father [Christopher Neame] and grandfather were both my mentors. So, like a lot of people, I looked up to them. When I was a young boy, my grandfather was one of the top directors in the world. He was very celebrated at that time. So I was very impressed with what they had done, and although I’ve got siblings, I’m the only son and I’m the oldest, so I did feel a sort of responsibility that I had to keep the family tradition.
Are there any plans or interest for spinoffs, specials or sequels?
There have been conversations about a Downton Abbey movie, which is a possibility, but there are no firm plans at the moment. We are going to embark on a show for NBC called The Gilded Age, which is a bit similar in tone and subject matter. It’s set in the 19th century in New York and New England.